Op-Eds

In-depth features and interviews, and photo essays   
  1. Miriam in the middle I was born in 1983 in a small village in the east of Holland. My parents had three children in three years, I’m in the middle. My mother is a drama therapist and my father worked with disabled people. It was a loving home and we grew up with music and art and theatre.We were surrounded by nature, but it was fields and agriculture rather than mountains and wilderness. I was always strong and outdoorsy. When I was 13, I joined the school athletics club and was put in a class…
  2. On October 15, 2018, 46-year-old tech expert Jason, from New York, flew to Hong Kong on a week-long business trip. He checked into a room at the Four Seasons, in Central, and when a lunch appointment was cancelled, he happily nursed an afternoon drink at the hotel’s Pool Bar.“Then I looked up,” he recalls, “and this incredible, striking woman walked in.”Jason remembers her warmly embracing the waiting staff, who responded with a fawning adoration reserved for regular clients.“She was shown to…
  3. The first thing the astrology apps did was shred me to pieces. Co-Star told me that I express love through work and routine, and that I am preoccu­pied with death. The Pattern told me that I have trouble with co-depen­dency, that others might see me as insensitive, and that I have dated emotionally unstable partners. Sanctuary told me I can be selfish, competitive and preoccupied with fears and doubts. The apps are, regrettably, correct. Not only am I all of those things, I’m a Cancer sun,…
  4. Edging the banks of mighty Lake Tai and bisected by the fabled Grand Canal, Wuxi in eastern China has been a favoured place of trade since antiquity. Wedged between economic heavyweights Suzhou and Changzhou in Jiangsu province, the manu­facturing hub has awoken from its post-socialist slumber and is now known more for software and solar panels than silk and rice. The Wuxi Grand Hotel looms large over the city’s Binhu district, where, in a 20th-floor Japanese restaurant, appears the hotel’s…
  5. Consider the case of veteran British actor Bill Nighy, who played Clifford Enterprises founder Howard Clifford in the film Detective Pikachu (2019). When speaking about his time on set, Nighy remarked that he had been “generationally disqualified” from Pokémon in the franchise’s early days, but had since found joy in discovering the wonders of the encyclopaedic Pokedex book.This affection, fostered at the age of 69, is a sign of a broader trend: it is simply impossible to escape Pokémon in 2019…
  6. The day the music died I was born in 1971. My three older siblings and I grew up in Florida. I was painfully shy, gawky and afraid of the world. When I was seven, my dad died. It was very sudden. There had been a lot of laughter and joy in the house and then everything went quiet, my mother went into a shell and the music literally stopped. I loved playing the piano but after Dad died my piano lessons stopped. I was in the middle of learning a song and can still play the first few chords of it…
  7. The most startling thing Sarah James remembers about Max’s 2007 poisoning was that he cried black tears.Dying, coat slathered in his own vomit, the dog shook as a vet hurriedly administered activated charcoal, hoping the decontaminant would bind with the deadly poison in Max’s gut to stop it entering the bloodstream. Some had splashed into the suffering animal’s pleading eyes.A teenage Island School student living in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels at the time, James had become aware of her dog’s life…
  8. Harbin, in China’s far northeast, owes its modern beginnings entirely to a railway. For the first three decades of the 20th century it was effectively a Russian city. It is a place that has sparked my curiosity ever since I came across a 1927 ship’s passenger list that revealed the name of my grandfather Frank Newman’s “second wife”, for whom he would leave his Shanghai-based family in the early 1930s: Nina Kovaleva, 25, born in Sevastopol, Russia.The list also named a daughter, Kyra, aged five…
  9. At 10pm on August 19, 1912, night had fallen across Cheung Chau, bringing an inky darkness to an island community that was as yet without electric lights. Oil lanterns glowed dimly from a few houses and moored sampans, but most of the hard-working fisherfolk were asleep. In his room above the Wo Sang Pawn Shop, near the police station, 14-year-old Wong Pak-hoi was finishing his homework. Constable Jhanda Singh stood guard at his post on the police jetty, but could hear little beyond the…
  10. We had our first taste of impending troubles in Hong Kong caused by the Cultural Revolution during the Easter holiday of 1966. On April 6 in the late afternoon we had returned to Queen’s Hill [barracks, in the northern New Territories] from a battalion command post exercise testing our vehicle-mounted radio systems and were looking forward to the Easter break.We picked up some news of rioting in Kowloon and decided that we would leave the radios mounted in their vehicles in case a call came. At…